Monday, January 22, 2007

Hrant Dink

Sadly today in my newspaper I read about the assassination of Hrant Dink, the editor of Agos , a weekly newspaper in Turkey. Hrant Dink was shot outside his office on Friday 19th January 2007. The life he had was an adventure as a journalist who also came into contact with the Turkish legal system over articles that were claimed of "insulting Turkishness". He stood up for free speech, freedom of expression and human rights. He was a good journalist who confronted the genocide of the Armenians in 1915 which caused a lot of debate within Turkey and his trial for "insulting Turkishness". There were people who have threatened him and he has received many threats but he continued with his work and did not wish to leave Turkey. Turkey was his home and he loved both the country and all it's people.

I am disgusted that Hrant Dink was assassinated, murder is the ultimate crime. To kill someone for their views and expression is the height of evil and intolerance. We should all have the freedoms to speak freely and express ourselves openly. Nobody should be stopped writing and we should all uphold our human rights. These human rights Hrant Dink campaigned for and he was no threat to anyone - was never a threat to the bigot who assassinated him.

Here is the last article he wrote for Agos on the day of his assassination which brings tears to my eyes...

The ‘dove skittishness’ of my soul

In the beginning I was not concerned about the investigation initiated by Şişli Public Prosecutor under the pretext “insulting Turkish identity”.

This was not for the first time. I was familiar with a similar case from Urfa. I was being prosecuted since three years because of my statement at a conference in Urfa in 2002 where I said that “I was not Turk but an Armenian and a citizen of Turkey” and there was again the accusation of “insulting Turkish identity”. I was completely unaware of the trials, I was not interested at all. Some of my lawyer friends from Urfa were dealing with the case in my absence.

I was completely indifferent too when I gave my interrogation to Public Prosecutor in Şişli. In the end I was trusting to my article and my good will. If Public Prosecutor evaluated the whole of the series of my articles and not this single sentence which alone did not make any sense at all, then he would easily understand that I had not an intention of “insulting Turkish identity” and this comedy would end, I thought.

I was completely sure that after the interrogation I would be not be sued at all.

I was sure of myself

But to my surprise, the case came up in court.

Still I didn’t lose my optimism. So I even told to lawyer Kerinçsiz who accused me during a live Tv program that “he should not be so eager that I would not be punished due to this case and that in case of punishment I would leave the country.” I was sure of myself, I really did not have the will or intention to “insult the Turkish identity”. Everyone reading the whole of the series of my articles would understand this.

And indeed the committee of three academicians from Istanbul University who were appointed as experts submitted a report to the court revealing this understanding.

I had no reason to be concerned, in this or that stage of the case this mistake would be erased.

While remaining patient

But it wasn’t erased.

The Public Prosecutor wanted to penalize me despite the positive report of the expert committee.

Then the judge gave me six months imprisonment.

When I first heard the verdict I found myself under the bitter pressure of my hope that I kept during all the months of trial. I was stupefied... I was hurt and the feeling of rebellion reached its climax.

“Let’s wait the verdict, let them prove me not-guilty, then you will regret all that you talked and written about” I had told myself for months just to hold on.

During each hearing of the court there were statements published in the news and columns of the newspapers and broadcast in the TV-programs claiming that I said “Turkish blood is poisonous.”

Each time I got more popular as an “enemy of the Turk”.

At the corridors of the Law Courts fascists were attacking me with racist curses.

They were humiliating me with pancards. Hunderds of threats via e-mail, phone calls an letters were pouring down and they were incresing day by day in number.

I was bearing all this and remainig patient with the expectation of verdict of not-guilty.

When the verdict was declared, the reality would be understood and all these people would be ashamed.

My only weapon is my sincerity

But now the verdict was there and all my hopes were lost.

From that time on, I was in the most embarrassing situation a man can experience.

The judge gave the decision in the name of “Turkish people” and legally registered that I had “insulted Turkish identity”.

I could bear everything but not this.

In my view, to humiliate people who we live together on the basis of an ethnic or religious difference is called racism and this is something unforgivable.

Just under the influence of such a psychology, I told to the members of the press who were waiting for me at the door to check “whether I would leave the country or not” the following statement:

“I will consult my lawyers. I will go to the Court of Appeal for cassation and if necessary I will also apply to European Court of Human Rights. If I am not acquitted at any stage, then I will leave my country. Because in my understanding a person sentenced to punishment with such an accusation does not have the right to live with other citizens whom he has humiliated.”

As I said this all, I was emotional as always. My only weapon was my sinceretiy.

A bad joke

But the deep force determinant as it was to alienate me and to turn me to an open target found again a pretext to my statement and this time sued me stating that I was trying to effect the jurisdiction. This explanation was published and broadcast in all means of media but only the one in Agos drew their attention. This time responsibles of Agos and I began to be sued under the pretext of effecting the jurisdiction.

It should be a bad joke.

I am a defendant. Who else should have more right to effect the jurisdiction rather than a defendant?

But look at the comedy, that this time the defendant is once again sued as to effect the juridiction.

‘In the name of Turkish State’

I have to admit that my confidence to the “justice system” and to the concept of “law” was shaken to a large extent.

It meant that the jurisiction was not independent as many state officers and politicians dared to say.

Jurisdiction did not defend the rights of the citizen but the State.

In fact I was totally sure that even if it was said that the decision was taken in the name of the people, it was actually taken in the name of the State. My lawyers would apply to Court of Appeal but who could guarantee that deep forces would not be effective there again as determinant as they were to make me down? And were all the decisions of the Court of Appeal right indeed?

Was it not the same Court of Appeal having signed the unjust decisions confiscating the real estates of the Minority Foundations?

Despite the efforts of the Attorney General

We applied indeed but did it make sense at all?

The Attorney General of Court of Appeal, like the experts stated that there was no element of guilt and demanded my acquittal but the Court of Appeal found me guilty again.

To the extent I was sure of my article so was The Attorney General of Court of Appeal of his decision that he objected the verdict and brought the case to the General Council.

But the great force which was just there to make me down and which let its existence be felt at all stages of the case with methods unknown to me, was again behind the curtain. As a result at the General Council again by majority of votes, it was declared that I insulted Turkish identity.

Like a dove

It is obvious that those wishing to alienate me and make me weak and defenceless reached their goal. Right now they have brought about a significant circle of people who are not low in number and who regard me as someone “insulting Turkish identity” due to the dirty and wrong information.

The diary and memory of my computer is full of messages from citizens of this circle full of rage and threats.

(Let me note that I regarded one among them posted from Bursa as a close threat and submitted it to Public Prosecutor’s office in Şişli but got no result.)

To what extent are these threats real and to what extent unreal? In fact it is impossible for me to know this.

What is the real threat and what is unbearable for me is the psychological torture of myself.

What I have always in my mind is the following question: “What do these people now think of me?”

Unfortunately I am more popular nowadays and feel the look of the people telling each other: “Look, isn’t it that Armenian?”

And just as a reflexaction, I start to torture myself.

One side of this torture is curiousity, the other uneasiness.

One side is caution the other side is skittishness.

I am like a dove...

Like a dove I have my eyes everywhere, in front of me, at the back, on the left, on the right.

My head is as moving as the one of a dove... And fast enough to turn in an instance.

Just look at the price... This is the price

What did Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gül say? What did Minister of Justice Cemil Çiçek say?

“The issue of Article 301 should not be exagerrated. Is there someone found guilty and sent to prison?”

As if paying a price always means going to prison...

Just look at the price... This is the price...Do you know Ministers what a price it is to imprison someone to the skittishness of a dove?.. Do you know it?..

Don’t you look at the doves at all?...

The thing they call “life and death”

What I all experienced was not an easy process... Neither for me nor for my family.

There were times when I seriously thought about leaving the country.

Especially at moments when the threats focused the ones close to me...

At that point I always remained helpless.

What they call “life and death” should be such a thing actually. I could be the warrior of my own will but I had no right of exposing the life of near relations to danger. I could be my own hero but I had no right to reveal courage at the expense of another person let alone a kin.

Just at these helpless moments I found shelter around my family and children. I found the greatest support from them. They were trusting me.

There would be together with me wherever I went.

They would come when I said “Let’s go” and stay when I said “Let’s stay.”

To stay and resist

But if we go, where then?

To Armenia?

But to what extent could a person like me tolarete the injustice as intolerant as I am at this issue? Wouldn’t I find myself in greater troubles there?

To go and live in European countries wasn’t my style either.

I know myself. After three days abroad, I miss my country. What should I do there?

Ease makes me uneasy!

To leave “boiling hells” and go to “ready heavens” was against my understanding.

We were sort of people desiring to turn hell to heaven.

To stay and live in Turkey was our real wish and and also a must of respect towards all of our known and unknown friends giving the struggle of democracy in Turkey and supporting us.

We would stay and resist.

However if someday we had to go, then we would go like in 1915... like our ancestors... Without knowing where to go.... Walking on the roads they had walked.... Feeling their pain and agony...

With such a reproach we would leave our country. And we would not go to the place of our heart but where our feet went. To whatever place it was.

Frightened and Free

I hope that we are never obliged toexperience such an abandonment. We have enough hope and reasons not to live such a thing.

Now I am applying to European Court of Human Rights.

I don’t know how many years this case will take.

What I know and what relieves me to some extent is the fact that at least I will continue to live in Turkey until this case comes to an end.

When a positive verdict is declared I will surely be happier and then this will mean that I will never have to leave my country.

Probably the year 2007 will be a more difficult year for me.
Trials will continue, new cases will came up in court. Who knows which kind of injustice I will encounter.

But while this all will happen, I will regard the following fact as my guarantee.

Yes, I can feel myself as restless as a dove but I know that in this country people do not touch and disturb the doves.

The doves continue their lives in the middle of the cities.

Yes indeed a bit frightened but at the same time free.

... Hrant Dink, journalist: born Malatya, Turkey 15 September 1954; Editor, Agos 1996-2007; married 1972 Rakel Yagbasan (two sons, one daughter), died Istanbul 19 January 2007.
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